Chengdu should be on any travel bucket list, especially if you are a foodie. The capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province is famous for its spicy and flavorful foods, including hotpot and mapo doufu (tofu, ground meat, fermented chili bean paste, Sichuan peppercorns and chili oil).

Earning an UNESCO City of Gastronomy distinction, Chengdu is also steeped in teahouse culture, with centuries-old spots serving steaming cups. Follow the locals and sip tea in settings ranging from alfresco venues in People’s Park to indoor spaces with intricate Sichuan artwork and design. Chengdu also lays claim to a museum dedicated to its regional cuisine, the Sichuan Cuisine Museum.

A big attraction in town is the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where you can find those cute, cuddly giant bears so coveted by zoos across the globe. The Sichuan region's great panda sanctuaries, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, are home to more than 30 percent of the world's black-and-white bears.

What you may not know about Chengdu is that it also has a thriving nightlife scene filled with expats, students and locals. Nightclubs, bars and karaoke spots keep the city humming into the wee hours.